Deflate Your Inner Beast With 3 Breathing Techniques
Use these breathing techniques to overcome anger, frustration and negative thoughts
We all breathe, but generally we don’t pay attention to how we’re doing it. Science has proven that by paying attention to specific ways of breathing, we can energize ourselves by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, calm ourselves down by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, or just balance ourselves—equalizing the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Whether you need to come down from a frustrating meeting, deal with the gazillion things on your plate TODAY or get beyond your stress before that upcoming presentation, all of these techniques can help relieve stress.
- Equal Breath: The first and simplest technique to calm ourselves down is to just pay attention to our breath, known as “Equal Breath.” This is made easier by giving us something to do as we breathe. To start, sit or lie comfortably. Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four, all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. After a few breaths, you can increase the count to 5 or as many as is comfortable. That’s it. Don’t let the simplicity of this cause you to discount its effectiveness. Equal Breath is easy to do in public, such as before you’re about to present, and it’s really effective while lying in bed on your way to sleep.
- Interval Breath: Different relationships between the length of the in and out breaths can give different results. Longer in-breaths energize, while longer out-breaths help you to deeply relax. I use this simple technique to help myself sleep, but it can also calm you down rapidly from intense stress. Basically, you want to make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. So, you’d inhale for a count of four and exhale to a count of eight. You can change the number, but make the exhale twice as long. As you begin your exhale, focus on relaxing the top of your head and have that relaxation sink down your body until you reach your feet on the 8th count.
- Lion’s Breath: The breathing exercise that makes the biggest difference for me when I need to release a lot of frustration or angst is Lion’s Breath. For this technique, you look up toward the center of your forehead while you stick out your tongue as far as you can as you breathe out. Yes, it feels (and looks) very silly. You can see images of it all over the internet, and here’s a good one:
When I want to take this deeper I start by standing up. I picture in my mind the thing aggravating me. As I breathe in through my nose with eyes closed and my tongue resting on my soft palate behind my upper teeth, I draw my fists up, crossing them in front of my chest. As I exhale with a strong “Haaaaa”—with my throat wide open and not using my vocal chords—my tongue sticks out as far as possible, with the tip pointing toward the ground. My eyes look up to the center of my forehead and my arms stretch out to the side with my fingers spread. Sometimes as I breathe in, I rise up on my toes and drop my feet and bend my legs on the out-breath, exhaling from deep in my lower belly. I repeat these in sets of 10.
When I’m feeling serious angst and really get into this, it becomes a sort of vomiting out of negative energy, but without any nausea. I feel no emotion as I do this and when I stop, I feel energized and clear.
Lion’s Breath doesn’t get rid of negative emotions, but it does deflate the energy behind them, leaving you feeling more clear-headed and better able to deal with your issue. I practice this in the morning, the evening, and anytime during the day (when appropriate–yes, it does look pretty silly) when random negative thoughts come in my mind.
Whenever you find yourself stressed, try any of these breathing techniques to put you back on top of your game. What helps you relax? Share your methods in the comments!